Providing the North American industry with good pastry chefs and bakers is the premise with which Jacquy Pfeiffer created, alongside Sébastien Canonne, The French Pastry School in Chicago.
The experienced pastry chef, who defends that customers are more and more intelligent and want good value for their money, is convinced that the level of pastry in the US can be raised by educating the consumer.
We talked with him about the challenges he encountered when opening the school, the standards that chefs who are invited to teach there have to meet, important aspects when creating a new piece of pastry, and the situation of high pastry in the United States.
Why did you decide to open the FPS and what were some of the major challenges you came across?
Chef Sebastien Canonne M.O.F. and I decided to open the French Pastry School many years ago when we were both running pastry operations at hotels here in Chicago. We could never find enough qualified pastry employees so we decided to create a school to supply the industry with well-trained pastry chefs and bakers.
Did you achieve what you wanted when you decided to open the FPS?
Absolutely. It was challenging at first because people did not know us and the concept of a culinary school solely dedicated to pastry, baking, cake decorating, and confectionery arts was foreign. After 24 years, FPS is well known for our culinary specialty as well as the quality and work ethic we teach our students. We continue to focus on our mission of educating pastry chefs and bakers and still have a lot of work in front of us as the industry is still severely understaffed.
After 24 years, The French Pastry School is well known for our culinary specialty as well as the quality and work ethic we teach our students
If you hadn’t founded the FPS, what other pastry school would you recommend our readers to go learn?
Not sure as there are many resources out there including books and videos. It all depends on what they want to learn as well as their own situation and goals.
What are some of your favorite pastry things to teach your students?
Food science is my favorite thing to teach to the students. It is crucial for them to understand the chemical reactions that the ingredients go through in a recipe. Once they know why things happen, they can be more confident as chefs and also be able to create their own recipes. This can be applied to all recipes from breads, baked cakes, ice cream, or confectioneries.
Food science is my favorite thing to teach to the students. It is crucial for them to understand the chemical reactions that the ingredients go through in a recipe
What are the standards that you look for when you invite a chef to come teach at the FPS?
In addition to good technical skills and overall knowledge of pastry and baking, we look for integrity, self-discipline, professionalism, a great attitude, and the ability to connect with students.
What makes you feel the most proud in your professional career?
When a graduate sends me an email telling me that he/she became executive pastry chef at a great place or opened their own business. It’s amazing what our graduates have done all over the world.
In your opinion how would you raise the level of pastry in the US?
I think it starts with educating the consumer. Many people have never had a great croissant or true artisan bread. Once they taste them, they cannot believe what they have been missing and want to continue to have access to better products. From the chef side, it would be great for the US to have a true, two-year apprenticeship program like they do in many European countries. Students would be able to work full-time for an employer as they learn fundamental hands-on skills.
The US consumers favor traditional pastries more than high end pastries. I think that the quality level of pastries will continue to rise as consumers are getting more and more travelled and they expect more
Do you think there is a balance between traditional pastries and high-end pastries in the US?
In my opinion, as a general rule, the US consumers favor traditional pastries more than high end pastries.
I think that in general the quality level of pastries will continue to rise as consumers travel more often and expect more. In time we will see an even balance of traditional and high end pastries in the US.
In your experience, what are the most important things to consider when creating new pastry items?
Balance is the most important thing to consider. Anyone can “create” a new pastry by putting ingredients and components together but finding the right balance of flavors, textures, and simplicity takes time and work.
Would you like to try the MOF again?
Sure! I would do it if I had the time but nowadays I spend most of my days being a mentor and motivator for the younger generation of chefs.
In addition, I am also very involved in our new foundation, The French Pastry School Scholarship Foundation, that helps aspiring pastry students with financial need achieve their educational goals.